After Slavery: Educator Resources

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5. North Carolina Freedmen Seek Protection from Governor Holden

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Nine: Coercion, Paramilitary Terror, and Resistance in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

As the Unit Nine documents suggest, organized and lethal violence against freedpeople and their white allies in the Republican Party commenced at the end of the war. But the passage of the Reconstruction Acts and the granting of the franchise to freedmen from 1867 onwards also precipitated a new phase in this hostility. White veterans of the war, often led by former Confederate officers, began to organize into more cohesive paramilitary units, and the 1868 election witnessed the emergence of a regional campaign against black freedom. Although white paramilitary violence took a variety of organizational forms, in the Carolinas (as across most of the South) the Ku Klux Klan dominated, and there is considerable evidence that by the end of the decade Klans were cooperating across the state borders of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The following letter from a group of freedmen associated with the Republican ['Radical'] Party in North Carolina is one of many that suggest the Klan chose its targets carefully.

North Carolina Freedmen Seek Protection from Governor Holden

NC Granville Co., October the 9th 1869

Sir we rite to notify you that we cant get a long with thout some protecksion it was just last night the ku kulks klan is shooting our famlys & beeting them notoriously.We do not know what to do but to make an appeal to the authorities for potecksion in the DS [district?] of leg of rock near tally Hoa they shot one & beat a nother near death be sides cutting off the earsb of one man by the name ned malry besides take ing his wife & striping all her close of her & beeting her scandilus & we would be glad to finde some relief be fore father disturbance also in the DS of Dutchville they hav written a note leting the people the are comeing to cut off the ears of the radicals wives please relieve us if can & let us hear from you soon.

aTally Ho lies about twenty miles northeast of Durham in Granville county, which borders Virginia.

bThe 'clipping' and cutting off of ears of freedmen and women was a fairly common occurrence in Reconstruction-era outrages. Freedmen's Bureau agents in South Carolina reported, for example, that one notorious 'bushwhacker' kept a collection of ears in an envelope, and would exhibit them in public when boasting of his exploits.

Source: Moses M. Hester, Joseph Coley, Jacabo Winston to [Governor] Holden, Governor Holden Papers, North Carolina State Archives


Questions to Consider

  1. Do you get any sense from the letter whether Moses Hester and his neighbors are confident of receiving aid and protection from state officials?

  2. What do you suppose the Klan is trying to accomplish in the vicinity of Granville? How will Holden or other North Carolina Republicans manage to win future elections if conservatives are able to carry out such intimidation with impunity?

  3. Imagine yourself as a freedperson living in the vicinity of Dutchville. How would you respond if you received a note threatening the kind of violence described in this document?

  4. How should Governor Holden respond to this request?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Nine